Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Review | The Great Estate by Sherri Browning

Sherri Browning's The Great Estate is an engaging second chance at love story.  It's a fabulous story of a married couple who must decide if they want to salvage their marriage or live apart.

Sophia, the Countess of Averford , has learned that her husband has returned home from an extended visit to Italy. Gabriel had left England and his beloved estate Thornbrook Park after he saw another man kissing his wife.  Gabriel realizes that he had been indifferent towards his wife and he returns home to court his Sophia and make her understand that he loves her. Sophie has been very busy running the estate in Gabriel's absence. She has hired a new steward, encouraged the tenants to sell their goods to local businesses and has rented out the estate's dower house to wealthy American families. All of these changes have resulted in profits for the estate.

"I understand you've become quite possessive of the place." She drew back from him. "Where did you hear such a thing?"

"From Kenner.  And Mr. Grant.  I know all about what you've been up to while I've been gone."

"All? They gave me up so easily?" Her most loyal servants, or so she'd thought.

"With their jobs on the line? Of course they did. They told me everything. I'm impressed, really. I never thought you had it in you, Sophia."

"You threatened them?" No, he didn't think she had it in her, did he?

And that was at the heart of their problems, not easily solved with his return after all. 

"Never? You never believed me capable of running your precious estate? 
Vapid, beautiful Sophia. She looks good on my arm, but I wouldn't trust her to function without guidance."

I am a huge fan of Downton Abbey and adore novels which take place in the early 20th century.  Sherri Browning's novel The Great Estate takes place during  King Edward VII's reign. The author's elegant prose perfectly conveys the rich historical and political details of the time. The novel presents the changes which began to take place during this time of peace and prosperity. There were significant shifts in political power as both laborers and women became interested in politics and many of the wealthy aristocrats had to sell their family estates because they were not able to maintain them. 

The character of Sophia resonated with me. I admired the novel's determined heroine and her pragmatic approach to running Thornbrook Park. She hired an American to advise her on estate matters and listened to his thoughts and ideas. Sophia visited the tenants, worked with them side-by -side and implemented changes which benefited both the tenants and Thornbrook Park. Sophia has transformed herself as well as Thornbrook Park during her husband's absence. Wilł Gabriel support Sophia's changes or dismiss them?

Gabriel, Lord Averford is determined to win Sophia's love. Lord Averford realizes that he and Sophia didn't know each other well before they married. He decides to court his countess to win her affections. Kudos to the author for writing such a great hero who understood that he needed to change to make his marriage whole again.  I loved the scene where Gabriel dressed in a minstrel's costume plays the guitar and serenades Sophia with an Italian love song. In this scene, the reader recognizes that Gabriel and Sophia love each other,  but the couple has a difficult time expressing their feelings. Gabriel accompanies Sophia when a rainstorm causes  flooding on a tenants property. He is amazed that she pitches in and works with him and the estate workers. 

Each of the secondary characters was well written and played a pivotal role in the storyline. Loved Aunt Agatha and Teresa, the Dowager Countess of Averford. These two woman were very different and their differences in opinion, personality and dress added both humor and insight to the drama. Gabriel and Sophia share a dilemma common to many married couples who experience loss. Gabriel turned away from his wife and  devoted himself to Thornbrook Park and politics while Sophia withdrew and spent time with her family.  I read the last third of the book in one sitting. I was invested in the novel and I loved the ending. The author skillfully sets the stage for a reunion for this couple...but will they recognize their feelings and grab a second chance at love?

The Great Estate is the third installment in the author's Thornbrook Park series and the first book by Sherry Browning that I have read. I  enjoyed this book so much that I plan to buy the first two books. 

Reviewed by Susan Gorman
ARC provided by Sourcebooks.

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